The Reader, Omaha/Lincoln NE May 2000

Industrial-Strength Tunes - Nine Inch Nails Returns to Omaha

You might not know it by looking at him, but Trent Reznor tends to focus on dark themes when he's pounding out Nine Inch Nails' computer-generated sound. OK, so Reznor's glee for gloom is obvious and well-documented. However, the bleakness goes beyond his lyrics and self-loathing. In 1994, Reznor joined Tori Amos to record "Past the Mission," a song from her Under the Pink album. They laid it down at the Beverly Hills, Calif., home of actress Sharon Tate, who was eight-months pregnant, and found murdered, along with four others, in 1969 by Charles Manson's followers. Incidentally, one of the first acts signed to Resnor's Nothing Records was rocker Marilyn Manson, a now-estranged friend of Reznor, who took his stage name by combining Marilyn Monroe and Charles Manson.

Hot Snakes, Resnor's New Orleans recording studio, has an equally macabre history - it was formerly a funeral home. But Reznor wasn't out looking for an embalming factory. It just happened to be the best building available at the time.

"He [Reznor] just said, 'Fuck it,' and bought the cheapest, coolest thing available and it ended up being a funeral home," said Danny Lohner, one of Nine Inch Nails' keyboardists and bassist.

"We [Reznor's Nine Inch Nails collaborators] went and checked it out, and it had the red carpet and the whole thing. But it was pretty thrash, so he bought it and we got in there and tore out all of the drywall and built it up, and then realized that it was a bigger project than we could undertake for a bunch of losers just off a long tour; and we all weighed 10 pounds and were unhealthy, so they hired someone, they came in, and now it's just like a regular building."

The stuido where Lohner does his work was one of the funeral home's viewing rooms, where mourners came to pay their last respects. That fact didn't spook Lohner.

"There were some weird moments back in the beginning," Lohner said during an interview with The Reader from a tour stop in Boston. "There are two apartments there, where the embalming guy lived. And they had a couple other people living in another. They're attatched to the funeral home so we had those. I lived in one for a while, and sometimes I thought I would hear weird shit, but since then Charlie [Clouser], the keyboard player and I are often at the studio until sunrise - just us in this huge building- and it's no big deal."

Reznor and his Nine Inch Nails corhorts must have been really comfortable in the former funeral home when they were making The Fragile, which offers more than 100 minutes (23 songs) of music on two discs. Reznor worked on the material for The Fragile for two solid years, stretching the time between Nine Inch Nails' last studio album, The Downward Spiral, to five years. Rumors swirled that Reznor had writing blck, but Lohner said the wait was due to more than a mild case of writer's block.

"He [Reznor] just couldn't stop making up shit, you know what I mean? And he was trying to figure out what direction he wanted to take with the music. There's just so much more material than is on the album [The Fragile] that it's ridiculous," Lohner said.

"There's a ton of songs for a side project called Tapeworm. It's more of a diplomatic scenario involving Charlie, me, Trent and the singer from Tool, Maynard [James] Keenan, and the singer from Pantera [Philip Anselmo]."

A Perfect Circle, another of Keenan's band projects outside of Tool, will open for the Nine Inch Nails on May 30, in Omaha at the Civic Auditorium Arena. The band released the album Mer de Noms on May 23.

"A Perfect Circle has a couple of aggressive things, but something sets them apart from Tool, because Tool clearly has the aggressive shit locked tight," Lohner said. "It showcases Maynard's vocals quite a bit, so you get to hear him over different music, different beds that are more gentle and have more space in them. You'll be surprised as to just how good of a singer he is. There's a lot of mellow stuff and then they have a couple of harder songs."

Count on Nine Inch Nails providing the majority of the hard, industrial stuff. When the Cleveland-rooted, New Orleans-based band played Omaha's arena in 2994 - with the Jim Rose Circus Sideshow as the opening act - the sellout audience of 4.500 was treated to an onslaught of intimidating and hair-raising techno metal. It ws loud, fast and numbing. And the crowd loved it.

In 1995, Omahans saw Nine Inch Nails play the arena again. the show originally was scheduled for the Pershing Auditorium in Lincoln, but later was re-routed to Omaha. That show, featuring the Melvins as the opening act, was a seelout, as well. That crowd was intense - turbo intense - for the band. Looking down from the upper levels at the concert-goers on the arena floor was amazing. The entire body of fans surged together and moved as one throughout the concert, constantly in motion with Nine Inch Nails' ear-blistering music. Complimenting the experience was Reznor's uncompromising, no-holds-barred performance that charged at the audience with the tenacity of a raging bull.

"He [Reznor] just goes off, and I can't believe he can do it night after night," said Lohner. "His voice is going to end up going out, but he's doing really good right now."

At Nine Inch Nails' 1994 appearance in Omaha, a production crew shot footage of the concert for later use in a live music video release. The Omaha shoot apparently went better than it did a few days earlier in Oklahoma.

"For the sake of filming, the lighting guys wanted to turn up the lights to make it brighter, but it kind of ruined the vibe. It made it seem like a Bon Jovi show or something," Lohner said.

Fans will have a better look at the band members this time around.

"It's basically a pretty clean stage. We dont have the huge stacks of speakers on stage this time; they're suspended in the air so you can see more. We also have these huge, monolith screens that have various images. And we have a secton in the show in the middle that takes it down a notch."

Unplugged? Say it ain't so, Danny.

"No, it's not unplugged, although it's funny you should say that, because we did kind of an unplugged thing recently at a radio station, just for the hell of it. But it actually turned out really cool because we played 'Something That Could Never Happen' and 'The Day the World Went Away' - quiet versions of these songs, and Trent sounds awesome.

"But we take it down and play some more of the ambient and abstract shit off the record and visual stuff that happens. It might sound ridiculous, but you can just trip out and hear some more of the cerebral songs and get a breather. It's cool."

The arena - which at previous Nine Inch Nails concerts was limited to audienes of about 5,000 because of a large black curtain that cut through its midsection - will be able to accommodate up to 10,000 this time. General admission tickets remained available as of press time.

Special thanks to Layne Gabriel for submitting this article.